My father is film actor Nick Cravat, who is best known for his appearances alongside Burt Lancaster in the films "The Flame and the Arrow" (1950) and "The Crimson Pirate" (1952). "Cravat" is actually a stage name that my father selected based on a character in a play he had seen and rather liked.
"Cuccia," he told me, was too hard to pronounce (it is Sicilian and correctly pronounced in Italian it sounds like "coo-cha"). Besides, being Italian wasn't terribly popular at the time (in the mid-1930s), so he dropped Cuccia and became known as Nick Cravat.
However, he retained the name Cuccia legally (his full name is Nicholas Cuccia-Cravat).
My father and Burt spent a good deal of their childhood together. They met when they were nine years old at camp and together developed an avid interest in acrobatics. They also lived in the same neighborhood and belonged to the same community center — my father lived amongst all of the Italians and Burt in the Irish section.
The neighborhood community center was called the Union Settlement House, located in what is now Harlem, New York. One day, a well-built Australian guy there named Curley Brent (of course he had either very short cropped or no hair) demonstrated the swings and flips he could do on the horizontal bar in the gym. Burt and my father were mesmerized and soon Curley was teaching them everything he knew to do on the single bar.
Once they learned a some tricks and developed an act, they joined the Kay Brothers Circus. My grandmother had bought my dad and Burt a car (or gave them the money to buy one, one or the other) so they could chase down Kay Brothers and try and get on as performers.
Their act, which began on a single bar, later evolved into a comic horizontal bar act (two bars situated eight feet apart) in which they went from bar to bar performing somersaults, giant swings and, of course, a little comedy thrown in — often the routine was done in regular street clothes, other times in tights. Another spectacular feat they later mastered was Burt climbing up a pole that my father balanced on his forehead.
Needless to say, years later they performed all of their own stunts in "The Flame and the Arrow" and "The Crimson Pirate." By then the were both in their late 30s.
We are just getting started on this new website dedicated to my father. We hope you will check back often as new information and images of my father will continue to be posted.
Tina Cuccia-Cravat April 2010